One of my pet peeves is when people excuse abuse by citing culture. “That’s part of the culture” is valid for many tihngs, but not when it comes to abusing another person. I was reading a post on Ask A Manager with the question from a reader asking if they could thrive under a hypercritical manager. My immediate thought without reading the post was, “Yeah, but only if it’s for a evry short amount of time and you have a very thick skin.”
Then I read the post and became more concerned with each paragraph. The ltetter writer (LW) started by saying they were in a competitive technical field and had always been great at it. Until this boss, whom they call Jane. LW said that they knew Jane was just trying to coach them, but then went on to say that Jane made them feel like a complete failure. Jane said their work was 95% good, but LW felt as if 95% of the feedback from Jane was frustrated, critical, and accusatory.
This was when I started to get concerned. I mean, I was already biased in the beginning, but the first few paragrpahs did not paint a pretty picture. “She doesn’t really give positive feedback” cemented it for me. I didn’t actually have to read any more to know that the boss was a lost cause. It got worse–so much worse.
LW’s colleagues told LW that they would never work with Jane and that she made them want to pull their hair out. She’s made many people cry, including the LW. It broke my heart that the LW was trying so hard to be fair to their boss, who was crushing them under her foot. The ysaid they had lost their motivation, their creative spark, and was their self-worth.
I related so hard to this because of my parents. I will get to that in a second. There was one comment about how it might be cultural difference and blah, blah, blah. Obviosuly, I did not agree with this comment. The person claimed they worked with people from 50 different cultures and that French people, for example, were like tihs, more interested in pointing out errors. Someone who acutally worked in France said, no, they were blunt, yes, but not cruel. Another person working in France said that they had a boss who was like this and she got fired.
And it’s interesting that the person making the initial comment of that particular thread was not French (they were from New York). It’s a form of soft bigotry that is annoying as hell. When someone who is not part of a culture broadly stereotypes that culture and ignores evidence to the contrary–even when it’s a purportedly positive stereotype–it’s still bigotry.
Side note: It’s similar to ow Asian people used to be called the model minority and praised for being smart, quiet, and obedient. By the way, there was a time when people used to gush about how smart Asians were. I used to snap, “That’s because oll the stupid ones are in Asia!” Which I would not say now because it’s cruel, but my point was that for East Asians who came here in the 60s, it was for grad school. It caused a brain drain back in Asia ,and many of them didn’t go back.